What’s the Future of eReader and Fictionwise?

B&N bought Fictionwise/eReader almost two years ago. In that time we’ve seen the NOOK become a hit, and B&N turn eReader’s digital rights management into the default system for their own branded store. Meanwhile, Fictionwise and eReader are shambling around like zombies; still going through the motions of selling books, but without any fanfare or bells and whistles.

A year ago eReader and Fictionwise were still selling ebook readers, and while I thought it was an odd plan at least they were doing something! With the advent of the “agency model” for pricing, Fictionwise’s membership plan disappeared, dropping a discount plan that was very lucrative to loyal customers. There’s an eReader app for most major platforms, but it pales in terms of development versus the NOOK app. From dropping by their front pages, it seems both sites are heavily focusing on romance, mystery and science fiction, the three niches that have served them well in the past. But with no references to compatible ebook readers, and the same tired “downloads” chart on the eReader site, it might as well be as though the ebook explosion never happened for them!

Here’s what I found most interesting, and since I visit eReader and Fictionwise rarely I don’t know when it was added. But there’s a long string of links along the bottom of both sites, all of which lead to B&N’s ebookstore, B&N’s NOOK, etc. It’s listed under “eBook Resources at Barnes and Noble” but if you look at the links available they are all items people look for at an ebookstore. I couldn’t find a category listing for “free ebooks” on eReader or Fictionwise’s main navigation areas, but there’s a link to “free ebooks” under the resources header that leads to B&N. They also link “Cheap ebooks” and “Romance ebooks” under that same B&N header. Essentially, B&N is subtly redirecting people to their own site as they look for specific areas, even though the old familiar Fictionwise and eReader still exist.

The question is, what’s the long term plan here? A year ago the only reference to B&N was “Fictionwise (A Barnes and Noble Company)”. Now there’s links attracting customers right to the B&N site. How long until eReader and Fictionwise just redirect to BN.com? The writing’s been on the wall for quite a while, but it seems like it’s getting brighter and more clear: B&N is slowly transitioning all their ebook properties under BN.com, and it’s only a matter of time.

I’m curious about buying habits at eReader/Fictionwise as of late. Obviously B&N doesn’t break it out separately from just “ebooks”, but who’s still shopping there? Do they have a major customer base or is it mostly legacy libraries? Take the poll below, and then let us know more about your thoughts on Fictionwise/eReader in the comments!

[poll id=”6″]

Categories: eBooks, Editorials

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9 replies

  1. I have no idea how accurate the figures at http://www.quantcast.com/ are, but they suggest that both sites have held on to a core readership. In fact fictionwise is beating Diesel handily which is surprising.

    Might be the only reason why they are still around.

  2. @gous: probably why they are still hanging on….why anger a group of users unnecessarily? I do think that’s part of the huge string of b&n links though-the more traffic gets slowly redirected to b&n, the faster new business to fictionwise/ereader drops, the easier it is to quietly pull the plug.

    I didn’t think to include this thought in the post, but I wonder if b&ns plan to siphon customers to nookbooks is so when they do pull the ereader plug no ones left to complain…b&n doesn’t want a yahoo/de.li.cious issue.

    It just seems like if there had ever been an intention to merge nookbooks with fictionwise&ereader it would have happened by now…I am very curious to revisit this in a year and see how things look, especially given all the dramatic changes already.

  3. Your reasoning sounds spot on to me. Also B&N has a lot on their plate right now so fictionwise/ereader is probably a low priority at present. Nor can they afford any unneeded expenditure at present and merging them will certainly cost something.

    The figures at quantcast show a downward trend so one has to assume that it’s mainly legacy customers. From business experience they can prove difficult to budge…

    Will we see a State of the Ebook at yearend? I would love to see your opinion of the main players and where the industry stands as a whole.

  4. Definitely! State of the ebook fell a bit out of rhythm when the summer and fall became very busy, but I am planning a year-end wrap up and to hopefully bring it back regularly in 2011!

  5. Ever since the Kindle app arrived and we saw books for $10 compared to $25 for Fictionwise / eReader I haven’t bought anything. When Fictionwise & eReader merged my accounts got screwy since I had the same username on both sites … but from different email addresses! I lost some books in that one … and that redoubled my resolve never to use them again!

    To me they are ‘old guard’ – I paid $30 for Call of Duty on the Dell Axim (WiMo), and now I pause to spend $10 on much better apps for the 10″ screen on my iPad. Things have changed, and to me Fictionwise / eReader are part of the ‘bad old days’.

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